Blog Post: The Dot Project  Nov 21, 2012
Today is a great day. For a long time I have been wanting to present science to people in a unique way. Over the years, I have been told that I have a good way of explaining things. I am not sure what that way is, but I do know the key factor in whether or not I can explain something. That factor is understanding. If I understand something, I can explain it. I suspect, although I have no way to prove this, that anyone can explain something, if they truly understand it. For this reason, my arch nemesis is quantum mechanics. My goal is to explain the history of science all the way from Issac Newton to quantum mechanics. The vast majority of proponents of quantum mechanics are either unable and unwilling to explain it. Responses such as "if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics" are common. The few who do attempt to explain it, use math so advanced that vast majority of people will never have access to the explanation. Some claim it cannot be fully explained or simply define it as not understandable by humans. Many claim that its unintuitive nature is the reason why they can't explain it, however, this does not explain why we have no trouble understanding countless other counter-intuitive concepts once we know the concept in counter-intuitive. Many will laugh at this statement, but I do not believe for a second that anything cannot be explained in simple terms, and the end result of this project will be me explaining to everyone wanting to learn, exactly how it works. As with all of the other knowledge that we will accumulate together over the course of this project, you will understand everything, easily and in perfect clarity. Your brain will never have to struggle because the process of understanding (which you will also learn) is easy and natural. Everything you have ever struggled to learn is not the fault of your intellect, but the fault the person(s) compiling or presenting the information. That is the key to this project. Ultimately, it addresses my endless frustration with the confusing way science and math information is presented and with the great amounts of frustration and wasted time that this results in.
There's a catch. Fortunately it's exactly what we need. The catch is, I don't know that much about science. The majority of my research in science has been limited to the field of evolutionary theory. Because I was raised in a fundamentalist religious environment, I had to find out if evolutionary theory actually made any sense or not. What I came to understand in this quest, was far more than the theory of evolution, which although beautiful in its simplicity, is possibly the most powerful idea ever conceived by a human. Upon realizing that one of the greatest truths to enter the scientific vocabulary was not at all understood by the majority of people (even those supporting it), I came to understand that great truths are invisible to the naked eye. They cannot be understood by simply reading a passage, looking at a drawing, or watching a demonstration. There is a process by which understanding is born. That process, which we call learning, is also not at all understood. This is the root of the problem. The simple of act learning is rarely demonstrated in schools and is primarily replaced by forced memorization of arbitrary word strings. Students memorize phrases and sound bites and the only ones who learn anything are the ones who have not yet had their natural curiosity squashed by the heels of laziness and ignorance, the ones who desire to know burns hot enough that they dedicate their own personal time to the discovery of truth.
Today is a great day because the solution my concerns has finally came together in one coherent vision. Dot is so ambitious, that I will not explain the entire scope of it in this post. I will only summarize what I hope to accomplish. The Dot Project can be summarized in the following phrase:
The rational representation of definitions, measurements, and theories.
Where dot itself refers to a sort of universal language that will be created, The Dot Project seeks to parse the body of science history and finally formulate it into that language which will be known as dot. As for the reason why I chose the word "dot", I will have to explain later, as I only have 30 minutes to write and post all of this (again, sorry for the inevitable grammar errors). I will briefly explain the definition. By rational, I mean not arbitrary, not contradictory. A common example of arbitrary is the fact we that (in the U.S.) we drive on the right side of the road, when there's no reason that we couldn't be driving on the left. A more accurate example might be the shapes of letters in the alphabet. Every letter you're reading of every word in this post, while it may have a historical reason for being that particular shape, could just easily be another shape. Many of the letters could be switched around, and if you were raised with say, "K"s switched with "C"s, you would never know the difference. That's arbitrary. The only non-arbitrary thing about the letters of our alphabet that I can think of at the moment is that they are somewhat designed to avoid confusion with each other. Although, this still happens often with "I"s commonly being confused with lower case "L"s for example. By representation, I mean not the actual thing - descriptive and correlating forms. By definitions, I mean visual and audio symbols and words used to describe measurements and theories. By measurements, I mean magnitudes produced by calibrated (standardized) instruments. All pure eye-witness testimony (claims of observations that cannot be recreated) will be rejected as not scientific. By theories, I mean formulations of measurements which make predictions.
Although the goals are well defined, the paths to those ends will cover an adventure of discovery and understanding. What comes first is the collection phase. As I study the history of science and learn fields myself, you will be learning alongside me, often in comic form. Much of what I learn will be from you as I publicly ask questions when I am stumped. As I am collecting data, it will be available in a public database of awesomeness. After the collection phase, the creation phase begins. This is when the dot language will be defined. Finally comes the translation phase. In this phase, a translation tools will be provided for as many other languages as possible. Although, dot should be so intuitive that any person raised in any language should immediately understand the meaning of any dot document, at a minimum, the concept itself will still have to be explained.
The central aim of dot is to 1) eliminate the confusion between observation and theory, 2) eliminate the illusion of fact and establish all information with quantifiable magnitudes of certainty, and 3) make available the entire body of scientific knowledge to anyone with sensory perception and 4) demonstrate the fun and ease of learning when information is properly presented.
I was going to try to figure out my quarterly tax return forms this afternoon, but this dot project thing seems easier.
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42 comments on Blog Post: The Dot Project Post New Comment...
wow. that's one hell of an ambitious idea. i remember having a similar abusive relationship with philosophy, I thought that conveying philosophy concepts with a OOD-style lingo (classes, metaclasses, you know, all this stuff) could make reflection discourse and all those long-winded discussions about abstractions about abstractions less awkward. later I stopped caring and wrote most of the works people call "philosophy" off as elaborate logic/ethics/religion/moral fiction, rather than "making sense of the world". you can call the process of understanding "learning", but I think it's actually reverse - learning is a collection, or, rather, a series of "understandings". in other to teach someone something you must have them memorize all the approaches to the concept, facts, axioms and operational relations applicable, and then at some moment, with or with your help, something clicks in their head, and bam!the understanding is there. the problem with many, if not most, key science conspts is that they are not simple. all this necessary support scaffolding, the knowledge "halo" for a given understanding-unit (concept, idea, equation) is normally very complex if not complicated. it's not that "complex math is required to understand them", quite frequently they ARE "complex math" and there's just no way to dance around that, it's immanent to the phenomenon. where's electron? is it here or there? no way to point your finger, it's a probability distribution. surprise, no "actual world" exists to "describe" with math. what exists is this very math itself. and math requires a LOT of brain power. it doesn't help that science started with "explaining" the actual, macro world and then moved on to things you just can't check with your eyes, to fields where actual subject of the study, as with QM, may or may not "actually exist": what exists is only math and measurements. no wonder that most attempts to explain QM in lay terms sound idiotic. "the cat isn't dead or alive, he's a wave function". I suspect there's no "explanation" in traditional sense. But QM is a far cry. Something like school-level physics would greatly benefit from a good "dot"-like system. many fields in macro-world that are "described" by math CAN be decoupled from it and explained; for many complex equations there exist real-world-examples that CAN be immediately and intuitively understood by most. I've times and times again wondered, of what use school physics course might be if it fails to demonstrate how the "science" it teaches actually works. * * * i never bothered to comment before, mainly because of the horrifying homebrew you pass for the comment system; as an amateur programmer I seriously respect that you actually got it to work - but it feels definitely like something out of 90's.
2 years ago by dCandela #7635
mi piace
3 years ago by freaksnproud #7367
I have to agree with some of the previous comments. Separate your web comic from your "dot" blog posts -- like what xkcd did with their "what if?" posts. I enjoy your comic very much. I also feel that the blog posts will be fun to read. But they're just different things altogether...
3 years ago by nexus0123 #6915
Does anyone else think the popstrip/toldyu websites are a mix between modern 2012 web technologies and the result of a lack of design skill Geocites-style?
3 years ago by Anonymous #6910
I suggest you make a website called "popblog.com" or something and put all your essays on it. I personally don't like reading comic artists' grand ideas about dumbing down quantum mechanics until
3 years ago by Anonymous #6909
If you're trying to make things easier to understand, you may want to work on the way you write. The paragraphs are very dense and the writing seems a bit too formal for the more casual readers.
3 years ago by Anonymous #6896
three thumbs up to this. it has the right amount of ambition. obviously the crux of the matter is the design of the language. that will be the thing that will make or break the project. I look forward to learning more about how us readers can help.
3 years ago by hhamilton #6882
Wow. This is an amazing project, I just hope that you know what you got yourself into. I'm definitely looking forward to some details.
3 years ago by Anonymous #6881
FUCK YEAH SCIENCE! I LOVE ME SOME FUCKING SCIENCE. YOU DON'T KNOW HOW LONG I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS, SWB. GO KICK ALL THE ASSES IN THE WORLD, MAN. You deserve all the tacos and the rice and the hats and the things that come along side it. Because the walls aren't meant to keep us out, but to keep the Australians in. REMEMBER, HATAHS GONNA HATE 'CAUSE YOU GOT AAALL THE SWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG.
3 years ago by Anonymous #6874
I got more and more exited as I was reading this :D
3 years ago by MFan #6870
This may possibly be the most amazing project idea ever.
3 years ago by FleckerMan #6868
This site has changed from a (usually) amusing webcomic into either self indulgent essay writing or the author deciding to airing their petulant angst for all to see, like this is some sort of group therapy session. Instead of being entertainment it's just tedious and unrelenting. If your life is so terrible that you can't produce the comic you purport to offer then why not just stop? Don't offer this crap as an alternative. Now cue all your fappy fanboys leaping to your defense.
3 years ago by Anonymous #6864
I really enjoy your long posts on here, I really do. But please consider making a separate section for your blogs so that when I enter this page for a web comic, I'll get a web comic. Also, from a guy who's taken several courses in quantum, it's tough on us to explain it. What explains it is the math, which in my opinion, is the simplest language. Whenever you try to put it into words, there is going to be error in your explanation because you have to use familiar concepts to explain it. Don't write it off because there's no simple explanation.
3 years ago by Anonymous #6863
The graphic novel 'Feynman' by Ottaviani and Myrick actually has a good section on explaining it as simply as Feynman can. Of course, the very guy who tried to figure it out doesn't even understand it, and he got the Nobel for it. Here's a good starting place. Just watch all of them, but this one first. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM
3 years ago by acce245 #6860
Jesus fucking christ. This used to be a webcomic website. tl;dr?
3 years ago by Anonymous #6859
Are you actually thinking of doing that?
3 years ago by SpinoroAtPI #6858